The Walkmen Olympic Community Hall, Halifax NS, October 25

The Walkmen Olympic Community Hall, Halifax NS, October 25
Photo: Ellie Pritts
"We're a man down tonight," Walkmen vocalist Hamilton Leithauser told the crowd, "so cut us some slack." One song into the band's first-ever Halifax show, it had felt like something was a bit off, and Leithauser's polite request was confirmed by my math: the band, typically five members, was performing as a four-piece. While organist/bassist Walter Martin's absence was never explained, the band soldiered on with a set that leaned heavily on their last two albums, downplaying the fevered intensity that sometimes marked their earlier records.

At times, the set languished: kicking off the show with the slow opening tracks of Heaven and Lisbon, back to back, was a low-energy start, and I couldn't help but feel that Heaven's softer material would have fared much better in a more intimate venue than Olympic Hall.

Martin's absence was truly felt on the more upbeat songs: without an extra guitar or keyboard in the mix, the bass drowned out the jangly riffs that define tracks like "Love is Luck." A lot of it still worked, mind you (particularly a set-closing "Heaven" that was magnificent), and Leithauser's incredible vocals kept the crowd engaged throughout. But when "The Rat" — still the band's signature song after all these years — emerged limp and lifeless, it was clear this wasn't the Walkmen at their best (understandably so, but disappointing nonetheless).